More on why countries are pausing the AstraZeneca vaccine

The European Medicines Agency has reviewed its data on the AstraZeneca vaccine and reports that it finds no higher risk of blood clots but also says it will keep on studying the possibility that the vaccine has caused them. Thirteen countries in the European Union have suspended their use of the vaccine at a time when vaccine supplies are already short. Or maybe that’s twenty countries. I’ve seen both numbers and don’t much care. Take your choice.

The however-many countries haven’t gone off the deep end, even if at some point it becomes clear that they’ve made the wrong decision. At least thirteen people have developed a rare set of symptoms involving widespread blood clots, low platelet counts, and internal bleeding. These aren’t typical strokes or blood clots, and the people are between twenty and fifty years old and previously healthy. 

Seven of them have died. 

Steinar Madsen, the medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, said, “Our leading hematologist said he had never seen anything quite like it.” 

On the other hand, Britain has had no clusters of unusual bleeding or clotting problems, in spite of having used 10 million doses of the vaccine by now–more than any other country. 

The question of how to read the evidence and what to do in response seems to have divided the public health experts from the medical people. On one side is the argument that Covid is the statistically greater risk, so keep vaccinating. On the other side is the argument that we don’t know what’s going on here and until we do we need to stop. Neither side is either crazy or irresponsible. It’s a question of emphasis and professional orientation. 

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Update: Four countries have announced that they’ll be resuming AstraZeneca’s use.

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My thanks to Sabine for sending me a link explaining the reasoning behind halting the use of AstraZeneca.